“Workplace TikTok” is an ever-growing genre, with everyday professionals sharing day-in-the-lives and career-specific tips. As the promise of high-paying brand deals and creator fund payouts grows, more and more are making TikTok their bonafide side hustle. The treasure trove expands for independent businesses, as TikTok rises to become a top search engine and one of the largest social media platforms for consumer spending. If you want to gain clients or customers, TikTok is your best bet.
But, as these everyday workers share the intimate secrets of their professional lives online, there is an inevitable question of privacy. This dilemma reaches its peak in the case of the therapist, a position requiring a high threshold of confidentiality. Nothing is more unnerving than the idea of your therapist sharing your personal information online.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we checked in with some couples therapists who run active TikTok accounts, asking for advice on how to manage private and public life—something creators of all genres and niches struggle with.
David Khalili (@rousetherapy) is a licensed marriage and family therapist by day, TikToker by night. Khalili offers sex and relationship therapy, specially tailored for queer, BIPOC, kinky, and polyamorous individuals.
But for those who aren’t lucky enough to receive Khalili’s face-to-face care, TikTok offers an accessible alternative. Part promotional tool and part platform of wisdom, Khalili’s TikTok offers viewers a glimpse inside his practice.
“While TikTok is not without its problems,” Khalili told Passionfruit, “I believe that having a space where people can learn for free and see how we interact with potential clients can be a really positive way of letting people know about the therapeutic support that they can receive.”
Recognizing the intimate knowledge that he holds, Khalili emphasized the generality of his TikTok content. His videos reach out to broad swaths of lovers and partners, commenting on general phenomena like anxious attachment, imposter syndrome, and boundaries.
Because his content is so general and is meant to reach such broad audiences, Khalili similarly asserted the fallibility of his videos—TikTok is no couples therapy dupe.
“I try to let people know that they shouldn’t take my advice or thoughts wholeheartedly,” Khalili admitted. “They should compare it to what they know about themselves and their own values to assess if it fits with them.”
Khalili said he is made uncomfortable by therapists sharing client experiences online, saying, “I know that makes a lot of viewers uncomfortable because they may wonder if their own therapist would share their session without their permission. … I truly try not to share any client material even in vague, masked ways.”
Kiara Ivory (@kiaraivory), also a licensed family and marriage therapist, shared similar concerns. Through her account, Ivory gains access to a world of eyes and ears far beyond her home states, Florida and North Carolina. Since she is unable to practice in other states, Ivory simply means to educate.
“I’m able to provide tips on stress and anxiety, [and] provide commentary on the latest trends,” Ivory said.
In terms of privacy, Ivory is clear with all of her clients that their conversations are entirely confidential, opting instead for generality in her videos.
“I never use any client information or give any details about specific sessions,” Ivory noted. “I use a common theme that I see in multiple sessions and create a video on it.”
When asked if she is nervous her clients will find the page, Ivory shrugged, saying, “I don’t post anything I wouldn’t want someone to see.” Ivory also includes a social media clause in her intake papers, noting that though clients may follow her, she will never follow a client back.
TikTok also offers a keyhole into the common culture, informing Ivory of what her clients may be going through, whether it be the hotbeds of comment sections or the spiraling “For You” page. In reflecting on the app’s purpose, Ivory mused on the ability to “get a glimpse of what my ideal client is going through in order to know how I can best speak to them through my platform.”
When it comes down to it, Ivory and Khalili flock to TikTok for the same reason that a bucketful of other creators and business leaders do: authenticity. The platform provides a glimpse into your life, making you a more approachable and empathetic figure.
For Ivory, that comes from honest, good-hearted attempts to inform. “Don’t aim to go viral, aim to provide value,” she warned other creators.
For Khalili, on the other hand, it’s all in the temporality and promptness of the platform. “I’ve really enjoyed TikTok for being able to just pop in, post a quick video on some thoughts and then facilitate a discussion in the comment section,” he said.
When asked if they had any advice for the broader population of TikTok second-gig stars, both Ivory and Khalili harked on similar notions: transparency and honoring your expertise.
“Professionals should be aware of how much self-disclosure they use on [TikTok as it’s] a platform to showcase authenticity with your audience,” Ivory noted. “Remember, you are the expert in your field to most people.”
“This is one of many ways to promote your work, inform your audience, and tap into your passion,” Khalili said. “Find something that also energizes you while doing the work.”
Neither Khalili nor Ivory are your cookie-cutter influencers. No, they’re community builders and educators. As a profession, marriage and family counseling may offer the most hurdles to starting up an online presence. There’s the issue of professional ethics, privacy, and even a certain stigma that may ensue.
Still, Ivory and Khalili, among the hundreds of therapists on TikTok, prove that with transparency and care, anyone can turn their day job into a certified social media side hustle.